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4 the mind, as to be ready for use upon every occasion. Now, in order to a deep impression, it is wisely contrived, that things should be introduced to our acquaintance, with a certain pomp and folemnity productive of a vivid emotion. When the impression is once fairly made, the emotion of novelty, being no longer necessary, vanisheth almost instantaneously; never to return, unless where the impression happens to be obliterated by length of time, or other means, in which case the second introduction hath nearly the same folemnity with the first., Designing wisdom is
no where more legible than in this part of the human frame. If new objects did not affect us in a very peculiar manner, their impressions would be so flight as scarce to be of any use in life : on the other hand, did objects continue to affect us as deeply as at first, the mind would be totally ingrossed with them, and have no room left either for action or reflection.
The final cause of surprise is still more evidenţ than of novelty. Self-love makes us vigilantly attentive to self-preservation; but self-love, which
; operates by means of reason and reflection, and impels not the mind to any particular object or from it, is a principle too cool for a sudden emergency: an object breaking in unexpectedly, affords no time for deliberation; and, in this case, the agitation of surprise is artfully contrived to rouse self-love into action : surprise gives the alarm ; and if there be any appearance of danger, our whole force is instantly summoned up to fhun or to prevent it.
Uch is the nature of man, that his powers and faculties are foon blunted by exercise.
The returns of sleep, fufpending all activity, are not alone sufficient to preserve him in vigor: during his waking hours, amusement by intervals is requisite to unbend his mind from ferious occupation. The imagination, of all our faculties the most active, and not always at rest even in sleep, contributes more than any other cause to recruit the mind, and restore its vigor, by amusing us with gay and ludicrous images ; and when relaxation is necessary, such amusement is much relished. But there are other sources of amusement beside the imagination: many objects, natural as well as artificial, may be distinguished by the epithet of risible, because they raise in us a peculiar emoțion expreised externally by laughter: this emotion is pleasant; and being also mirthful, it most successfully unbends the mind, and recruits the spirits,
Ludicrous is a general term, fignifying, as may appear from its derivation, what is playsome, sportive, or jocular, Ludicrous therefore seems the genus, of which risible is a species, limited as above to what makes us laughi,
However easy it may be, concerning any particular object, to say whether it be risible or not; it seems difficult, if at all practicable, to establish any general character, by which objects of this kind may be distinguished from others. Nor is this a singular case; for upon a review, we find the same difficulty in most of the articles already handled. There is nothing more easy, viewing a particular object, than to pronounce that it is beautiful or ugly, grand or little : but were we to attempt general rules for ranging objects under different classes, according to these qualities, we should find ourselves greatly at a loss. There is a separate cause, which increases the difficulty of distinguishing risible objects by a general character : all men are not equally affected by risible objects: and even the fame person is more disposed to laugh at one time than another; for in high spirits a thing will make us laugh outright, that will scarce provoke a smile when we are in grave
mood. We must therefore abandon the thought, of attempting a general rule for distinguishing risible objects from others. They are however circumscribed within certain limits; which I shall suggest, without pretending to any degree of accuracy. And, in the first place, I observe, that no object is risible but what appears flight, little, or trifling; for man is so constituted, as to be seriously affected with every thing that is of importance to his own interest, or to that of others. A real distress raises pity, and therefore cannot be risible; but a slight or imaginary distress, which moves not pity, is risible. The adventure of the fulling-mills in Don Quixote, is extremely risible ; fo is the scene where Sancho, in a dark night, tumbling into a pit, and attaching himself to the side by hand and foot, there hangs in terrible dismay till the morning, when he discovers himself to be within a foot of the bottom. A nose remarkably long or short, is risible; but to want the nose altogether, far from provoking laughter, raises horror in the spectator. Secondly, with respect to works both of nature and of art, none of them are risible but what are out of rule, fome remarkable defect or excess; a very long visage, for example, or a very short one.
Hence nothing juít, proper, decent, beautiful, proportioned, or grand, is risible. s
Even from this slight sketch it will readily be conjectured, that the emotion raised by a risible object is of a nature fo fingular, as scarce to find place while the mind is occupied with any other passion or emotion : and this conjecture is verified by experience; for we scarce ever find this emotion blended with any other. One emotion I must except; and that is, contempt raised by certain improprieties, such as what also provoke laughter : every improper act inspires us with fome degree of contempt for the author'; and fan improper act be at the same time risible to provoke laughter, of which blunders and ab